There is not nearly enough oxygen in the air in Cusco/Cuzco, Peru, 11,200 feet above sea level. When I was 19 years old, I climbed a 14,000-foot peak in Colorado. I am no longer a teenager, but, with our 12-year-old grandson and our old-enough-to-be-his-mom daughter in Cusco, Sally and I climbed almost everything everyone else climbed in this amazingly beautiful part of creation.
The Incas certainly appreciated the beauty of the area, but for them, something more than splendor at stake. They believed that this was the spiritual junction of heaven and earth, where gods and humans connected most perfectly. In the Quechuan (Inca) language, Cusco means “Navel of the World.”
Who can argue with the value that a tribe, or an entire nation, puts on a sacred place? You can enter a small cave in Sacsayhuaman, just outside of Cusco, where sacrifices to the deities of the Incas are still made annually.
The Irish call these sacred spots “thin places” because heaven and earth seem to have less air separating them. Somehow, it is easier to connect with God, however God is understood, in these hallowed locations. The island of Iona in Scotland is my favorite “thin place” in the world.
I have traveled to two other “navels of the world.” Jerusalem, where the Holy of Holies of the Hebrew Bible was located, is one. Delphi, in Greece, home of the famous Oracle, is another. I won’t argue with anyone who feels they have experienced the Holy, whether at a summer camp in the North Carolina mountains or as a tourist in a grand cathedral.
The older I have gotten, the more I have been forced to remember that God told Moses his name is, “I AM WHO I AM.”